1920 Stutz Bearcat
Chassis no. 6425
Engine no. 6478
In the world of antique cars there are few names that resonate like Stutz Bearcat. No name evokes the heroic spirit of early American motoring in the same way. Images of young gentlemen in raccoon coats racing around the countryside with perhaps a college pennant attached to the car. For that era there was no car that was as sought after and mythical. The Bearcat even inspired and American television program of the same name. Scores of toys, models, liquor decanters, lamps, were produced with the image of the famed Bearcat.
One would think that given the celebrity status of Bearcats the cars would be abundant, they certainly are not. The number of real surviving Bearcats of all eras is miniscule at last tally there were less than 20 accounted for. The opportunity to acquire one of these mythical machines is very rare indeed and the machine offered here is one of the best performing of them all.
The Bearcat evolved during its production run from 1911-1923. Initially powered by a Wisconsin T-head engine, it was eventually replaced by the sixteen-valve 4-cylinder model offered here. The Bearcat gradually received subtle changes to its coachworks, and by 1920 it had reached its ultimate stage of evolution. The body had become sleek and aggressive with a wide hood and cowl, and it was even offered with a rare configuration of a passenger side door. The Bearcat continued to only be offered in right hand drive to allow for the outside shift and brake controls- this further gives the car its great vintage feel. The body is quite narrow making it a proper two-passenger and was offered with or without a top assembly. By 1923 a left hand drive Bearcat was offered but this model was a shadow of its former greatness. The body was more of a conventional roadster with a hard-sided trunk at back and without the side shifter, it was just not the same.
This particular car was formerly a core member of the Harrah's Auto Collection and is believed to be the only Bearcat with a side door today. Donald Short acquired this car from an HAC auction in 1976 for $18,500. This car has been known since the 1950s when it was discovered and re-commissioned by Gordon R. Howard of Burbank, CA. Howard purchased the car from Bernard Landsdown of Pasadena, CA in 1953. Howard rebuilt the transaxle replacing the original worn gears with a new set of 33-10 gearsthe proper Bearcat ratio. The braking system has been upgraded to use a vacuum boost system to enhance the original oversized mechanical brakes. This addition apparently gives this car surprisingly powerful braking.
The late Bearcats have a great look. Fitted with the larger drum lights and the attractive low windshield frame, they embody the American sports car image. Cracking the hood open reveals the big four, its dual distributor and finned exhaust manifold.
This car was kept registered by Bill Harrah likely due to its wonderful performance. Donald Short used to like to tell a story about being pulled over by the police having been clocked at 105 mph!, while Stutz restorer Paul Freehill praises these late Bearcats as being the best Stutz ever built!
During its time at Harrah's some restoration work was performed, photos of which are included, though much effort went into keeping as much originality as possible. Some of the original Spanish leather upholstery is still present in the interior. That which is not original seems to be the high quality upholstery done by Harrah's. The car has been well kept and time has given the car a nice uniform appearance blurring the distinctions between the original and restored part. The car includes many original Harrah's Auto Collection documents including the original receipt form HAC and Harrah's Nevada registration.
While in Don's care, the car had routine maintenance and has appeared to have rebuilding work done on the engine. The car has been sitting for a few years but it is reputed to be in good working condition and a very strong performer.
This is a wonderful opportunity to acquire one of the greatest cars of the era and a car that has been considered one of the last great buys of the pre-war sporting car market. With Mercer Raceabouts and early Bearcats trading in the $millions this is a chance to acquire a legend before these too become unobtainable.